As one of the stars of the Ottawa Senators in the Provincial Women’s Hockey League, Rebecca Leslie was proud to participate in the First Annual Do It for Daron game. DIFD is a foundation that honors the life of the late Daron Richardson, daughter of former Ottawa Senators NHL assistant coach (and 21-year NHL veteran) Luke Richardson. “It meant a lot to play for our friend. It was pretty overwhelming. We worked hard, every single person.”
Like many other players involved in the contest, Leslie knew Daron. “We played one year for the Bantam AA Lady Sens. We were friends off the ice and teammates on it.” The news of her passing was extremely visceral, “It was shocking. You would never expect that to happen to someone close to us.”
For Leslie, the opportunity to participate in the contest against their cross-town rivals the Nepean Wildcats was a great point of pride for her. “It was a way to honour her. We knew we had to do it.”
Another person who inspired Leslie in her young career is her brother Zac. A player for the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League, he has served as a great influence to her. “When I started off, we would play together on an outdoor rink. We would like to battle it out a bit,” joked Leslie.
During the Canadian Under-18 Nationals, Leslie would find herself reunited with a longtime friend, Nepean Wildcats defender Taylor Thurston. The two played together on Team Ontario Blue (one of two squads that Ontario ices for the annual event). Leslie and Thurston were part of history as both helped Team Ontario Blue to the squad’s first gold medal in the history of the event. “It was amazing! We were the underdogs in the tournament. To beat Team Ontario Red was amazing. Definitely, the best experience of my life.”
The opportunity to win the gold medal with childhood friend Thurston meant a lot to Leslie, “Tay has been a good friend of mine. During the game, there are no friends on the ice, but off the ice we are really good friends.” Recently, the dynamic duo appeared together on the cover of a magazine called Centre Ice, a local Ottawa hockey publication. For Leslie, being in the limelight was a new experience, “It was a little embarrassing but a great honor! It is nice to think that some of the young girls look up to us as leaders in Ottawa.”
With the Senators entering their holiday break, Leslie is the squad’s leading scorer. Despite her superlative efforts, the Senators find themselves in the bottom half of the league standings. “We are in a slump, but we can get out of it soon.”
As one of the more northern cities in the PWHL, bus trips from Ottawa to various parts of southern Ontario can be long. Leslie and her teammates find ways to deal with the potential monotony of said trips, “On bus trips, we do movies, homework. There are also a lot of jokes and laughs.” Another reality of life in the PWHL includes the academic obligations, one that Leslie takes with great responsibility, “You learn time management. School comes first. If we have an assignment, we are allowed to miss a practice.”
During the offseason, many former Senators players having joined the Nepean Wildcats, it has added a new dimension to the rivalry, one not lost on Leslie. “On every shift, we know them. Personally, they are all our friends. It is tough playing them, but it is fun.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
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